Grape varieties in Chile
The traditional chilean grape is the Pais
Wine is made of grapes that are produced from a primary grape, known by the scientific name vitis vinifera sativa. The original grape vine is the red país variety, brought in by the Spanish conquerors. To this day, it is the most cultivated grape variety in Chile. País is a very high yielding grape qualified for simple, rustic red wines but not suited for the export of premium quality wines. The país variety is to be found in the whole of America, varying from place to place (known as Criolla in Argentina, or Mission in California). Today, internaionally known grape varieties are cultivated in Chile, among them wine of the top ten brands, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Merlot. Particularly rare grapes such as Carmenère and Syrah that are scarcely cultivated in Europe have a very individual and characteristic taste. Blendings (wines from different grape varieties) are not common in Chile, recently , winegrowers have been experimentalizing with these.
In Chile, this white wine grape is grown predominantly north and west of Santiago in clayey soil and on sunny north slopes. It is descended from the French Loire (Sancerre) and enjoys international popularity as being an excellent white wine. The wine delivers flavors of gooseberry and hay; wine coming from a warm location is ideal for barrique storage.
The “best white grape-vine of the world” is to be found in every country and produces tasty wines for every palatal. Originally, it gained fame by producing great wines, such as the white Burgundy (Chablis, Meursault) and flourishes best in limy soils in a moderate climate. In Chile, the Casablanca Valley meets perfectly these conditions. Chardonnay is characterized by a neutral, lighly fruity and exotic aroma, having excellent acid values.
Being one of the most important primary grape varieties worldwide, the white Riesling-grape coming from Germany achieves the best results in cooler areas. In Chile, Riesling is cultivated predominantly in cooler regions in the valleys south of Santiago: Rapel, Curicó, and Maule. Innovative winegrowers who are looking for ways to differentiate their wines, committed themselves to Riesling in the past few years. In terms of quantity, it plays a minor role in Chile as being a warm and sunny country. Lush green to golden yellow in color, Riesling has a light and fresh taste, from time to time a mineral one. Various citrus flavors are evident (grapefruit, lemon, apple, passion fruit), underlining the distinctive features of its location (terroir).
This red grape variety comes from France (Bordeaux) and puts forth an impressive road of success. From Italy via California to Australia, it is used for producing outstanding red wines. In Chile, Cabernet has been cultivated for about 150 years being planted on its own rootstocks. A warm climate, small crops and ripe grapes provide an excellent basic material. Fruity, concentrated, rich in tannin, flavor of black currants, in Chile a distinctive eucalyptus flavor.
Coming from French Bordeaux as well, the Merlot-grape is referred to as “little sister” of the Cabernet-grape. In Chile, it ranks second of the most important “primary” red grape varieties. In high-yielding seasons, the grape-vine produces rather simple table wines. All in all, it has a smoother taste and a less intense flavor than that of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Carmenère grape has become a national symbol of Chilean wines. Originally coming from the French region Médoc, it was almost wiped out by the vine pest in the 19th century in Europe. Long mistaken for Merlot, its true identity was revealed by a French oenologist who found remainders of the primary Carmenère-vine. Since that time, Carmenère is produced in the wineries near and south of Santiago on a large scale. Red, of fruity spicy flavor. Its tannin levels are not as high as those of Cabernet Sauvignon, turning the Carmenère into a light, compatible wine. This wine should be consumed while young.
A low-yielding but high quality red grape variety, originally from the Rhone Valley in France. In the past considered as a grape of low value, Syrah is a primary vine today, particularly cultivated in Autralia (where it goes by the name Shiraz). Producing Syrah is quite complicated since it can neither have too much sun nor too little sun.. Due to this fact, there was a significant decline of Syrah acreage in France, although it is one of the world´s best wines when made of fully ripe grapes. The consistent climate of the southern hemisphere provides more favorable conditions for growing this grape. Dark colored, bit closed, black currant nose and high tannin level. This wine will age for a long period.
In Austria and Germany known as Spaetburgunder or Blauburgunder, Pinot Noir is one of the famous dark primary varieties coming from French Burgundy (Bourgogne). A thin-skinned grape that owes its name to the short bunches that resemble pine cones. Difficulties plague Pinot Noir at every step, from varietation in temperature, soils, to propagation, why it is known as the most “moody” variety worldwide. This is one of the reasons why Pinot Noir is rather not produced in Chile although this variety favors the warm sun and lean, permeable, chalky soils of Chile´s Central Valley. This variety brings forth silky-smooth harmonic wines of fruity flavors and low tannin levels.